Thursday, July 31, 2008

Under the global influence.

My friend Tawana called late Wednesday night.

"Well, I've made up my mind. I'm going to go European."

"Really? Are you sure?"

"Yup. Everybody's doing it."

"I dunno. I can see just pulling the weeds, but I don't know about, well, mowing everything down."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm going to buy a bike to ride to work."

"Oh. I thought you were going to shave something."

Picture,1920s, originally taken from Flickr, now released in the public domain. Caged from Wikipedia Commons.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just one more thing that's no fun now that I know better.

Tanya, a beautiful young Gypsy girl, was swaying in a provocative, sensual dance before Nikki’s sprawled form. One of his hands lightly held a small flask of brandy on his powerful chest. The other hand, lying carelessly on the chair arm, would occasionally move listlessly to the nearby table and turn over another card in the game of solitaire he was indifferently and infrequently pursuing while regarding Tanya, who skillfully undulated to the wild, frenzied tempo. Through narrowed tawny eyes, Nikki watched her tantalize him. Her graceful young body, half revealed in a scanty blouse and silken skirt, twirled close, then retreated, displaying a wanton invitation from brilliant dark eyes. The firelight caught the coruscation of golden highlights from the heavy hoops in her ears and from the multitude of sparkling necklaces twined round her slender neck and swaying against her trembling half-naked breasts.

I should be embarrassed to admit how many of these I must have read when I was in High School. In my defense, everyone else was reading them, too--even some of the boys. These books were a pretty hot commodity; they were thick and throbbing with salaciousness and we passed them from hand to hand until the covers were torn away and the pages just barely hanging from the binding. You knew you'd been passed a really good read when someone handed you a copy held together purely by the grace of a wide rubber band.

It occurred to me today that--armed with a graduate degree in English and hard-won appreciation of quality literature--I couldn't find a book that gave me that much enjoyment if my livelihood depended on it.

I'm needing a good read in the very worst way. Send me your recommendations. If you include a review, I'll publish it for all the world to see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well, I hope somebody's working on it.

My friend Tawana called last night with another idea for us to make millions upon millions of dollars. I can't tell you about it, though. She was still a little sketchy on the details.

She'll work it out; she always does. Why, we could buy and sell every one of you with all the great ideas she's had for making us rich.

In all the years she's been conjuring these things up, she's never yet called to say,"I'm about to make a billion bucks. I'll invite you to up to see the palace after I get settled."

She makes sure that I'm always part of the plan. And it's great to have a friend who wants to include you in her good fortune--except for the fact that good fortune isn't high on my list of gotta-haves these days.

What I could really use right now is a fast and painless way to get my old ass back.

Even in the flush of youth, I never had a back end that could stop traffic--but I could certainly prop open a door with it. Now, it's mainly only good for causing my pants to hang funny, and for making my feet fall asleep after I sit for too long. Take it from me--when your fundament is all stretched out of shape, nothing fits right--not even the chair. Being able to sit in my favorite chair without my toes turning purple would make me much happier than a big pile of money.

If Tawana could come up with a way for me to get my 1987 caboose back, I would pay her the million dollars.

image, vintage pulchritude.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hold on a second while I flex my executive function muscles.

I don't know if it filtered down through your news reader last week, but some people are talking about a Scientific American article that seems to be making a case for eschewing decision making altogether.

That might be a bit of an oversimplification on my part; everyone knows that I'm not very good at science. According to my read on the article, though, every decision one makes--whether it's deciding between two flavors of ice cream or determining whether or not to sign the papers on that monster truck--uses up that person's decision-making capabilities for a period of time. The brain gets all tuckered out and has to have a bit of a rest before it can be counted on to make good choices again. Unfortunately, the article doesn't really get into specifics as to how long your picker-outer will be out of order.

Since most of my decisions are of the eeny-meeny-miny-moe variety, I'm guessing that this phenomenon doesn't really apply to me. In fact, it is entirely possible that I am the only one working in my building who still has full possession of her entire range of decision-making capabilities.

Obviously, it's time to have that chat with my boss about my salary.

image, Bobtail Ice Cream.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's Shark Week. Again.

Saturday Night Live - Season 1 - Land Shark

It's the 20th annual Shark Week over on Discovery Channel. It's all there--shark attacks, shark attack survivors, shark jobs, and shark sex. Obviously, the full range of sharkiness is unknowable.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I'll bet you wish you'd thought to bring a magazine.



Image, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's like a metaphor, see? Because after a while, it's not about Matt anymore.

Everybody knows, I'm a crusty old cynic. But I'm not dead. There are still some things that inexplicably make me go all mushy inside--like cats who run and cry at the same time (meow-wow-wow-wow-wow), spontaneous standing ovations, the last scene of You've Got Mail, and Veterans' Day parades.

So yeah, I know--we've all seen Matt, wherever the hell he is. But this?

This is lovely.

My favorite moment comes at 2:37.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Making time.

It's the working women's creed. You hear and read it everywhere--the admonition that, no matter how long the list of things you must do for the other people in your life (your boss, your kids, your husband), it's important to remember to take time for yourself.

This must rank as one of the top five things every grown woman has to learn to do. How else to explain the inclusion of this tiny, four-word mandate in every Website, television network, and print publication devoted to women's interests? And Oprah? Girl, you know Oprah is all about finding time for herself.

And I am, too. In fact, making time for myself is one of the ways I ended up with pants I can't fasten.

I've noticed, though, that when the experts are talking, making time for one's self almost always translates into, "do something about the size of that gigantic ass," or "enrich your mushy mind." Read a book, take a class, join the gym or take up Yoga. They never say anything about piling up on the couch with a huge bowl of Orville Redenbacher Buttered Popcorn in front of a Tori and Dean marathon. I've never seen, "sleep all day Saturday," or "drink lunch Mojitos until you're too stupid to go back to work" as any of the suggested ways to carve a little time for yourself out of your busy day.

Why is that, do you suppose?

Do we imagine that we'll be able to lay around in our pajamas all day after the kids are grown and out of the house? Are we waiting for retirement to take up drinking in the afternoon? I've given this a lot of thought, and I've determined that if I'm ever going to give myself over to sloth and overindulgence, I'd best do it before someone else has power of attorney.

And you should too. Go ahead. Have yourself a little 508 calorie mocha latte. Eat a whole pie for lunch. Sleep all weekend in the clothes you wore to work on Friday.

You deserve it. And in a few more years, nobody's going to let you. They're going to want you to go to water aerobics class.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oh and one more thing.

If you're waiting for the traffic to die down enough for you to get to see the first installment of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog--well, don't.

Wait, that is.

You can download it from iTunes. Best couple dollars you'll spend today.

Especially for Muffin Uptown.

the one that i like best from Jessica Bigarel on Vimeo.

Why have a blog at all--if not to send extra-secret messages to extra-special people who are being missed an extra-awful lot?

Why indeed?

Monday, July 14, 2008

It's all in the planning.

Here's what I've learned from having a high-pressure, do-or-die career in the fast lane: you gotta have a plan. When thinking of my plan, I like to think of it as (you guessed it), Plan A. This is because there must be a way to differentiate the main plan from the auxiliary back-up contingency plan that you will almost certainly also need.

This plan, I most generally designate as Plan B.

On Saturday, however, I had no plan at all. I rolled around on my couch all day under Friday's hair, wearing Friday night's pajamas, watching movies on the intertubes and eating whatever I could find in my kitchen that didn't require the use of a pan, plate, or utensils. By the time I crawled into bed at 3 am on Sunday morning, I realized that unless I meant to show up at work on Monday covered in bedsores, it would be a good idea to hatch myself one of those plans.

And that was the situation on Sunday morning, when I loaded my iPod with Moth podcasts, put on my first pair of shorts for the summer, and somehow managed to find and squeeze my way into a sports bra. I put on my walking shoes, loaded my pockets with cell phone, nasal spray, and house key, and poked my puny pony-tail through the back of my cap. With remarkably little fanfare, Plan A was thus initiated.

I reasoned that if I could walk as far away from my house as half an hour would get me, by the time I turned around and made it back home, I would have traversed roughly three miles. Although I could have gotten a more precise measurement of the distance by driving the route by car first, this would have required an additional level of planning to the planning of my plan.

As I locked the front door, I had it in mind that I would listen to two moth podcasts before turning around. These podcasts usually last between 10 and 15 minutes each, so the combined total for two episodes would be close enough to half an hour for my purposes. I would be so engrossed in the hilarity coming from my earbuds that the mile and a half would seem to fly from beneath my feet, and being completely engrossed in the podcast would keep me from looking at my watch every four minutes or so. Because really--when was the last time you saw a dedicated runner or walker checking his or her watch?

As you can no doubt see, I had planned it all very carefully.

Twelve minutes into my walk, just as the first Moth podcast was ending, I realized that I really, really needed to pee. Unbelievably--even though I am a woman of a certain age whose bladder fills to bursting about twice every hour--I had neglected to take the idiosyncrasies of my middle-aged internal organs into consideration while developing my plan.

Alas, short of squatting behind a tree, I had no choice but to proceed as planned. So, I clenched my teeth (and other things) and continued my trek away from home. Moth podcast two began. Not very long into this podcast, I was becoming aware of developing blisters on each of my feet. By now, two unforeseen complications had arisen that were seriously threatening the successful completion of Plan A.

This might be a good place to tell you that I didn't choose the secluded streets of my immediate neighborhood for my walk--because I had in mind that I wanted a real sidewalk beneath me, I walked a block up from the house to one of the more heavily traveled main roads on my side of town. And so, at 9:40 am on Sunday morning, one-fourth of the town's church-going population was zinging past me at speeds that made me frightened for life and limb--even from my position in the center of the sidewalk. Although it did not feel as though it offered much in the realm of safety, my position on this sidewalk did afford fortunate passers-by with a keen view of me as I limped, shuffled, and scuttled in the opposite direction of my home, my band-aids, and my bathroom. By then, I could no more have told you what I was listening to on my iPod than I could have taken wing and flown my way back home.

Not quite fourteen minutes had elapsed since I had left my front stoop.

Despite all my careful planning, my walk was not turning out the way I had hoped. Less than half an hour from home, and I was on the Bataan Death March. Drawing on all my many years' experience in situational evaluation and subsequent decision-making, I chose to then institute the all-important Plan B: Turn around and get my ass back to the house before one of my feet fell off or I peed in my pants.

I'm happy to report to you now that I do still have both feet.

photo, Old

About The Moth Podcast: "
The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon's Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda's porch." Listen here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just because I can't play, doesn't mean you shouldn't have fun.

I've got some very important, can't-be-mangled-by-anyone-else -but-me stuff going on at the office, so I don't have time to make up lies about the people I know today.

I did enjoy this story that someone else made the time to tell, though. It concerns the fact that Walmart has changed their logo, for the first time in 16 years. Please note: Mr. Constant occasionally curses in print.

Paul Constant's Slog article.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Well, thanks a lot, TCM.

The NPR affiliate in my part of the world carries KCRW's The Treatment. I like it a lot. Elvis Mitchell is so smart; he's forgotten more things about movies and popular culture than I will ever know. This doesn't represent a huge self-disclosure on my part. Mitchell's on NPR, I'm an NPR junkie, and anyone who cares enough to think about it for a second could deduce that I am, therefore, a big-ole Mitchell fan.

But what you might not know about me is that I don't like my intellectual programming mixing it up. I don't want the juice from my radio green peas running into and interfering with the taste of my television potatoes. It makes me uncomfortable when NPR fraternizes with CBS. Radio is for listening. I don't need to know that Michael Feldman looks like the guy who lives next door to me and sits in his driveway every afternoon in a folding lawn chair. I enjoyed Garrison Keillor's writing much more when he looked like the picture in my head, instead of--well--Garrison Keillor. And I don't care how much you beg, I'm not looking at pictures of Nina Totenberg or Michelle Norris. Just put those away, you sick bastard.

And just so you know--I'm not the first person who has written of this. Lots of us don't want a good look at the people we depend on to tell us what we think of each day's pressing issues and news-worthy events. Most of the time, this is not a problem. Until everybody else discovered Ira Glass and David Sedaris, you pretty much had to go to NPR to find them.

But Elvis Mitchell represented something more to me. Listening to his voice--marveling at all the knowledge this young man seemed to have right there at his fingertips--for years, Mitchell filled me with hope for the future of humankind. I was no longer overcome with dismay when I considered the rapid aging and decline of our country's cultural scholars. Why worry? When this batch of smart folks done shuffled off this mortal coil, Elvis Mitchell will still be here. He'll help see to the perpetuation of rational thought for the new times.

And then on Sunday, I caught him (and all his gray hair) on his new show on TCM.

Turns out the dude is a year older than I am.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Do-gooder. Or just do better.

I spent a bit of time in self-reflection this past weekend. And by a bit, I mean a precious little--just about the time it takes to find my way home in Saturday afternoon traffic from the grocery store.

"Why is it," I wondered, "that I'm only able to use my compulsive powers for evil--never for good?"

Later, as I was squeezing 24-count cartons of Diet Coke under the bed and behind the couch, I realized that I had never once brought home more fresh vegetables than I had room for. Once opened, I can't walk away from a bag of candy, but I've never walked around the block and then felt compelled to walk two or three more miles. I sometimes sleep so late on Saturday that I awake all worn out and have to take a nap before I can face getting dressed, but I've never worked so hard during the day that my drowsy thoughts on the pillow are, "Wow. Can't wait to do that again."

And those are the more innocuous examples. My immoderation with regard to the sin-tax vices are greater than a normal person would judge as--well, normal.

It's true what they say--anything in excess can be a bad thing. But when the thing in which you are intemperate isn't that great for you in the first place, it becomes a problem. And let's face it, if the things that were good for you felt or tasted as wonderful as the things that would kill you, most of us would live forever.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Well, maybe one more.

It was a dilemma--should I just give up my calorie- and fat-laden Starbucks Mocha cold turkey, or indulge in one more for the road? After all, I hadn't said a proper good-bye to my Barista, Nichole. After seeing me every workday morning for so long, she might really worry that something had happened to me. I could imagine her, truly frantic by 7:30. "Where's my regular Venti Mocha?" she might ask. Really, the last thing I wanted to do was to cause undue alarm.

But Nichole had the day off, it seems, because an adorable young man took my last coffee order. Like all the very best Baristas, he was warm and friendly, making eye contact and making sure I didn't need a scone or muffin to round out my coffee experience.

And me? I was all sweet and flirty--jacking up my dimples and asking him if he was aware that he looked just like John Mayer. After all, I could afford to be expansive. I was getting my coffee that day. My inevitable misery would be postponed for another morning. My motto: Not now? Not a problem.

It wasn't until I was well on my way--half my delicious, rejuvenating, and extremely satisfying (last) coffee gone, gone, gone--that I spared a thought for the poor kid.

When I was 20, if some old poop who was twice my age had said to me, "You know, you look just like Cyndy Lauper" (or someone else from my generation the old creep had no business knowing anything about), I would barely have been able to wait until he was out of earshot to say, "Ewwww." (Actually, back then I would have said, "Gross," but it's the same general idea.)

But if he had said instead, "You look just like Julie London," I would have said to myself, "Aw! That sweet old guy has me mixed up with somebody from back in olden times!"

And then I would have thought, "Who the hell is Julie London?"

Friday, July 4, 2008

It's a national holiday, y'all.

Enjoy your picnic/fish fry/cook out. Get up from the computer, go out in the stinky heat, and spend some time with people you like.

See you on Monday.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why I'm cross and inattentive this morning. More so than usual, I mean.

I had a checkup a couple weeks ago. As it turns out, all those orange circus peanuts, potato chips, and peanut M&Ms I've been eating at my desk are not as low fat as I had assumed. That--right there--is why I don't cotton to going to the doctor.

The fact that I've been wearing my slacks unbuttoned should have given me fair warning. There's just nothing quite like stepping up on the scale, however, and watching the nurse slide the balance even further to the right to bring home the significance of all your bad habits.

But none of this hurts as bad as discovering yesterday that Venti Mochas--my whole incentive to get out of the house and on the road to work every morning--contain 508 calories and 27 fat grams. I mean, really! I had no idea that that a little chocolate syrup, whole milk, and whipped cream could wreak such havoc.

I'm heartbroken.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A million little pieces to fact check.

I guess I'm a little out of touch, because I only just heard about the scrutiny being given to David Sedaris' stories. Last year, Alex Heard got a bee in his bonnet and wrote a piece for the New Republic that got some people all worked up about whether or not Sedaris' autobiographical stories are factual enough to be considered proper nonfiction. Now that Sedaris has a new book out, it's all being recycled into the intertubular conversation. (I'm not linking to it. Google it yourself, if you just have to know.)

But that's how it is. Once burned, twice shy. Reporter Stephen Glass was fired for making stuff up under the guise of investigative journalism. Janet Cooke's fake Washington Post story won a Pulitzer. (Oh sure. Make up one 8-year-old heroin addict, and ruin things for everyone else.) And then, of course, James Frey had the temerity to go and lie to Oprah, of all people.

And you know what? I don't care. You can shelve a Sedaris book anywhere in the store you like. Prop him up right next to the Garfield and Family Circus books, for all I care. Just let me know where you decide, so I can find him when I have my book money on me. Speaking as a reader, David Sedaris' books are as factual as I need them to be.

And as a writer--well, I wouldn't satisfy Alex Heard, either. Word up--I lie all the time. Just ask any of the people I've written about.

Oprah can just deal with it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Not there yet.

I didn't set out to make it so, but all this bellyaching about my age has become a part of my shtick.

Listen. Truth be told, I'm not that old. Despite the gray hair in my eyebrows, I still can't get a discount on my meals or movie admission. I don't own a single pair of SAS shoes, and I can't get anybody interested in the idea of me going home and drawing a check from social security instead of working my ass into the ground everyday.

But really. I would have thought that by now I would be finished with the trials and tribulations of the inglorious pimple. Can somebody, anybody, tell me--how grown up do you have to be? I'm beginning to wonder if anyone ever outlives the occasional outbreak. Will I eventually reach the point when my shopping list includes denture adhesive, adult diapers, and benzoyl peroxide?

It's embarrassing. When I was 13, it didn't bother me a bit to stand in line to buy tampons--not even if the checkout guy was smokin' hot. But try standing in the aisle alongside a couple teenagers, trying to read the back of the Oxy5 tube under florescent lighting through your bifocals. It takes me forever to decide what product to buy. I typically go through three sets of teenagers on an average buy.

The rest of the world must really think that people my age don't get pimples anymore. Because of this, sometimes I just pretend that something else entirely is going on. "This giant thing on the side of my nose? It's a spider bite! Yeah, I know--the doctor says I may need some corrective surgery. She says those tiny brown ones can be the most dangerous. I'm just glad my nose didn't fall off!"

All this work, just because I've got big pores. You can see how it all just makes me feel older than ever. The face wash, the astringent, the medicated makeup. The lies.

God willing, some day I really will be old. I'll stay home all day. I'll sweep my porch every morning. I'll plant plastic flowers in the yard, and I'll cut the toes out of my tennis shoes. I'll crochet granny square purses and hats for my grandchildren, who will not wear them.

When I really am an old lady, I probably won't wear purple, and unless someone pokes me in my ribs with a gun, I won't be wearing a red hat. But when I get an enormous pimple on my face, I will be wearing a Band-Aid, and don't you dare say a thing about it.